Frequently Asked Questions
Why is IELS important?
IELS will provide the U.S. the opportunity to better understand the skills and competencies of American children at the beginning of primary school and how they compare to the skill profiles of 5-year-olds in other countries. Results from IELS will provide policymakers, educators, and parents/guardians with important information about the experiences that influence children's early learning as they begin school. This information can be used to improve children's education and experiences in the first five years of life. These early years can set the stage for future success in and outside of school.
What is being assessed?
The IELS assesses the whole child. Five-year-old children use a tablet and play activities designed to assess their language and early reading skills along with their emerging number skills. The activities also measure their self-regulation and the development of empathy.
What are the components of IELS?
The focus of IELS is the child's early learning and skills. This information is collected via three components:
How was IELS developed?
How many schools and students participate in IELS?
Approximately 3,000 students, from about 200 public and private schools across the country, will participate in the Main Study during the fall of 2018. The field test in 2017 included approximately 30 public and private schools and a total of 475 children.
How are schools and students selected for participation?
The U.S. Department of Education sampled about 200 public and private schools to represent the nation. Schools were chosen at random to ensure racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, as well as representation from schools in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Up to 19 five-year-old students will be randomly selected to take part in the study from each participating school. In very small schools, all 5-year-old students may be asked to participate. Approximately 3,000 5-year-olds will take part in the Main Study across the U.S.
Why should schools, students, and parents participate in the study?
Participants help IELS to provide an accurate picture of what 5-year-olds in the U.S. know and can do. It is important that every selected school and student participates in the study because they represent many other schools and children like them across the country. Parents and guardians provide vital information about children's early educational experiences contributing to a more complete picture of children's learning and development. The child's teacher also completes a short questionnaire to provide a full picture of a child's skills and experiences.
When is IELS being conducted?
NCES will work with Westat, a research organization, to conduct the study in the U.S. beginning in October and ending in December 2018.
What was the field test for?
The IELS field test (a small-scale, trial run of the study) was conducted in every participating country in the fall of 2017. To ensure that the assessment wording and the concepts assessed are not regionally, culturally, or socially biased, the study materials were field-tested with a diverse sample of 5-year-olds from a variety of schools, locations, and backgrounds. Field Test participants provided essential feedback, improving the study and guaranteeing that IELS provides an accurate picture of what U.S. 5-year-olds know and can do.
What is involved for students?
IELS is a play-based study conducted on tablets. Children will be asked to point to pictures, listen to stories, and complete game-like tasks. They do not need to prepare in advance. They do not need to know how to read. The assessment is conducted during school hours in a room designated by the school, such as the school library. Children work one-on-one with trained staff who have experience working with children. The study is untimed and is split across two days to minimize time away from regular classroom activity. Children are allowed to take breaks as necessary. In our experience, the study takes about 30 minutes each day and children enjoy participating.
What is involved for parents?
One parent or guardian of each student who participates in the study is asked to complete a brief survey. Parent participation in IELS is critically important for the study to be able to report on the relationship between children's early learning experiences and their skills as they enter school.
What role do teachers have in IELS?
Teachers of students who participate in the study will be asked to complete an online survey about their professional background and about the development of the sampled students. Paper-and-pencil versions of the surveys are available upon request. The teacher survey does not have to be completed in a single session.
Do teachers need to help administer the assessments?
No. Trained IELS staff from Westat will administer the study on behalf of NCES and bring all required materials to the school. Exceptions will be made for students with IEP accommodations that may require the assistance of school personnel (e.g., if a student works one-on-one with an aide).
What happens if a child refuses to participate?
All participation is voluntary. Children can skip any question they do not want to answer. Any child who does not wish to work with IELS staff will not have to. Children can take breaks whenever they would like during the assessment.
Are children with disabilities and English-language learners included in IELS?
IELS aims to be as inclusive as possible. Students with disabilities and English-language learners are offered a limited set of accommodations to participate in IELS. If those accommodations do not provide adequate support to enable their participation, the children may be excused.
Will the names of participants and their responses be kept confidential?
All of the information provided may be used only for statistical purposes and may not be disclosed, or used, in identifiable form for any other purpose except as required by law (20 U.S.C. §9573 and 6 U.S.C. §151). All field staff and other staff working on the study have signed an affidavit of non-disclosure where they swear to abide by this law.
The information provided by individual children and parents or guardians will not be shared with teachers, schools, or the district. Individuals and schools will not be identified in any reported data. IELS is not designed to produce results for individual children. Results will be combined to describe the nation's 5-year-olds.
What will happen with the collected data?
Individual children's performance will not be shared with teachers, the school, or the district in any way. Results will not identify participating districts, schools, students, educators, or parents/guardians. Individual responses will be combined with those from other participants to produce summary statistics and reports.
Who can I contact with questions?
Participating Parents: To access the IELS website for parents of participating students, please visit https://www.MyIELS.us/. You will need a user name and password to enter the site. If you do not have one call the IELS information number, 1-855-299-1398. Or send an email to IELSHelp@westat.com.
Participating Teachers: To complete the teacher questionnaire, please visit https://MyIELS.us. You will need a user name and password to enter the site. If you do not have one call the IELS information number, 1-855-299-1398. Or send an email to IELSHelp@westat.com.
Participating Schools: To register on the IELS website using the registration id for your school, please visit https://www.MyIELS.us/. You will need a user name and password to enter the site. If you do not have one call the IELS information number, 1-855-299-1398. Or send an email to IELSHelp@westat.com.